In short: The use of several technologies including the internet, social media, and smartphones appears to have leveled off or reached the point of nearly full saturation in the US over the last two years, according to the latest research from Pew. By the numbers, approximately 77-percent of adults in the region say they use or own a smartphone over the period. Meanwhile, internet and social media have stayed at right around 89-percent and 69-percent, respectively. Those figures go up substantially when considering only key demographics. For example, 99-percent of adults in the US between the ages of 18 and 49 say they own or use a cell phone while 91-percent use or own a smartphone. The figures for internet and social media climb to 97-percent and 82-percent. The numbers stay fairly consistent across demographics including college graduates and for households with incomes above $75,000.
Background: According to the data provided by Pew, the growth of the internet has been ongoing for the longest period of time of those three technologies, starting in 1994 at just 6-percent. By comparison, social media and smartphones didn't really start to take off until 2005 and 2011, beginning at 5-percent and 35-percent. Those have been on a steep upward climb since introduction as the devices and connectivity they represent gave users a way to easily connect with the world and the power of a computer in the palm of their hands. Each also seems intrinsically interconnected since cell coverage appears to have played a pivotal roll in getting users connected, to begin with. Despite the high adoption rate for the three technologies in question, at-home broadband access seems to have leveled off too. Pew says only around 65-percent of homes have access to that technology. 43-percent of respondents to earlier Pew studies have claimed that either cost or availability of broadband high-speed access present challenges. That's around 60-percent of Americans in rural areas, compared to 43-percent in urban settings, and 36-percent in suburbs.
Impact: The fact that the use of smartphones, internet access, and social media appear to be hitting their peak doesn't necessitate an end-of-life for those technologies, however. Instead, progress has been made almost across the board for each and that will likely continue. The incoming wave of 5G connectivity should, for example, set a new trend in smartphone usage and internet access. What's more, as that spreads and becomes nearly as ubiquitous as smartphones, it will almost certainly begin to replace broadband further. Additionally, new technologies such as those encompassed in the IoT still have plenty of space to grow and will take advantage of 5G as well. That includes a wide variety of markets ranging from self-driving vehicles and intelligent city infrastructure to smart home innovations. Smart speakers, for instance, only have around an 18-percent market saturation in the US. That leaves a lot of room still to advance over the next several years. Almost every other market in IoT is in a similar position, making that a key market moving forward.